Grateful

I think life showed us that we needed a rest…

It has only been a month since my last post but it feels like way longer. Honestly, I haven’t had many ideas to blog about lately and I’ve been pretty busy between work, work, and well being lazy. But life is good. I am beyond grateful for where I am in my life right now. I am alive, healthy; my family is strong and healthy. You know how they say, your body tells you when it needs a rest, I think life showed us that we needed a rest. Sometimes our lives are so fast paced that we forget to take a moment and be grateful. I have a good job, with minimal stress. My bills are paid. My retirement fund is growing as is my savings. These past months, I’ve been spending time on the phone with my family and at home with my husband. My mother and I reconnected. I even treated her to a hotel stay back home. Some people that I am close to have suffered some real hardships this past year and I am grateful that I have been able to be there for them in some way. Life is so precious and I believe that once Covid-19’s death wish slows some, people will appreciate some things a little bit more. At least I hope they will. I don’t believe that life will ever quite be the same though. Most of us will look at things differently and choose differently. I can’t even watch a food tv show without cringing about something or look at past pictures. Like how my husband and I went to Sri Lanka 2 years ago and ate street food from street vendors. It’s a miracle that Covid-19 didn’t come sooner.

Yesterday, I received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s free in my host country. I feel okay, minus the sore arm. I have to go back for my second dose in 3 weeks. I was nervous about getting this vaccine however, I want to get back to traveling. Most importantly, I want to go home to see my sons and the rest of my family. I miss them dearly. If getting the vaccine will make that easier, it’s a risk worth taking.

Today is a good day to be alive and to be grateful.

A Review of my Stay at Al Messila Resort and Spa Doha

Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

It is winter break over here in Doha for teachers and children and in light of Covid-19, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that I opted out of traveling. I did, however, choose to do a short staycation to see different walls than the ones in my flat. My friend Jennifer and I decided to book a room at Al Messila Resort.

Al Messila is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha. It’s nestled right off Doha expressway and across the street from the U.S. Embassy. We got a great rate as Qatar Foundation employees and I had heard good things about the resort. Jenn and I were really looking forward to some rest and relaxation.

Although the front desk consists of a few podium desks behind plexi/glass shields, the lobby is beautiful. The high ceiling is grand and the chandeliers majestic. There are several areas to sit surrounded by gold and beige decor. Your bags are checked by security and your temperature and etheraz apps are checked upon entry.

Although we requested two beds, the confirmation did say 1 King (which I should have checked prior) and changing to 2 beds would include at least an hour wait. We didn’t feel like adding an additional hour to our already rather late check in time of 4pm. Since we have traveled together before and are pretty good friends, we decided to share the bed.

We stayed in a deluxe room which was very spacious. I really appreciated the 6 piece bathroom including a separate shower and tub behind the same glass door within the bathroom, the rain shower head and double vanity. The room had a rather long hallway from the door to the bedroom, a wall mounted television, coffee maker, mugs, tea, King bed with 4 rather flat pillows, a table, 2 chairs and a chaise. Our room had a balcony facing the front of the hotel and highway. Next time, I’ll be sure to request a different view. The room was very clean with the exception of a nectarine which was under a chair on our balcony, upon check-in, and remained there throughout the duration of our stay. There were stains on our carpet and the bed was not very comfortable. In fact, my side felt very slept on and I had to move closer to the center of the bed to feel like I wasn’t sleeping on a slope. The Wifi was free though and it worked well. I am awarding the room 3 stars, for the great wifi, space, and wonderful bathroom; unfortunately, 2 stars were sacrificed due the bed, carpet stains and forgotten nectarine.

The hotel grounds are beautiful, with lots of greenery and a large pool. There is a pool bar as well and all of the bartenders and pool staff are nice. Happy hour starts late around 7pm. The cigar lounge was clean and Daniel makes very good drinks. The star of the resort, though, is the Spa. As a hotel guest we were able to enjoy the spa amenities free of charge. You can even catch a golf cart over to the spa. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still access the spa for 15o QR. Jennifer and I spent about 2 hours at the spa going from room to room. We took part in the hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation beds and rooms and even pole dancing and trampoline jumping in a pool. During our spa visit, we only saw 3 other guest, so we basically had it to ourselves. You can pay for other services as well, like facials and massages. I really wanted to experience a Turkish Hamam but due to covid, those weren’t on offer. Al Messila gets 4 stars for amenities. The only reason I deducted a star is because of the lack of dining options which unfortunately hits this resort in 2 areas. Let’s talk food and service.

Let’s get right to the point, in this large beautiful hotel, why is there only 1 restaurant? Firstly, breakfast was not included (*correction, breakfast was included, we were not charged) but the buffet is very reasonably priced at only 38 QR and even though breakfast is buffet style, you can not go up and get your own food, precautions put into place due to Covid. This is fine, however, no one informed us about this even after we were sat at a table and left alone for some time. Eventually we called someone over and they explained that everything would be bought over to our table. They were informed about my vegan and Jennifer’s vegetarian diet prior. It took a while to receive our food but I was able to ask for specifics like potato wedges and sauteed veggies. A menu of what’s available would have been helpful, saved time and cut down on waste. Nevertheless we walked away full and satisfied. For lunch we ate outdoors. The chef prepared some vegetable dumplings and french fries for me. The dumplings and several sauces were tasty. That was on our first full day. But the second day was a disaster. We made breakfast reservations for between 9:30-10 and arrived around 9:45. We were told to wait in the lobby as there was already a queue of people waiting. No one took our names down or gave us a number to be called. We waited about 30 minutes before Jennifer said something to the host and we were finally seated. The host seemed to have no idea about our reservation. The restaurant was getting hammered hard and it showed. We requested to just order specific items from the buffet so that everything did not have to be bought over. I ordered simple potatoes and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, Jennifer ordered avocado toast, and eggs benedict but forgot to tell them no meat, and they obviously forgot our dietary restrictions. They bought over eggs benedict on turkey and a side of meat. She re-ordered and I waited, and waited and waited. Then her fixed order came minus the toast, and I waited and waited. Then she finished and I still sat waiting. We pulled over someone who appeared to be a manager and told him the problem, that we were leaving and I was not paying, as I didn’t eat anything other than a piece of fruit. By this time, I am very upset. He apologized and insisted bringing over the food anyway. A few minutes later, he bought over a plate of mushrooms, sliced avocado and pre-packaged hash browns. The sight of this plate made me angry. It was not what I had ordered. It was not avocado toast. It was not cooked potatoes and the mushrooms were cold. By this time I am furious with the service and I didn’t hesitate in letting the hostess know. There were many complaining guest that day. The service and the food was awful. Knowing that it is winter break, people are not traveling outside of Doha like they used to, due to Covid, this hotel restaurant should have been better prepared. I left out of that restaurant very HANGRY and ready to leave the hotel altogether. I am awarding the restaurant/food and service, 2 stars due to everything mentioned. When I travel, food is high on my priority list especially because of the way I eat. If the food is not right, I usually don’t return.

Things worth mentioning: On our check in day, we received fruit and truffles delivered to our room. This was a nice touch. Later that evening, tea was also delivered. Unfortunately for every good thing, something not so good happened. For instance, after we enjoyed in-room dining on the first night, we called for the tray and dishes to be collected but no one ever came to get them and the room started to smell. On day 2, we saw housekeeping in the hall when we left our room but they never cleaned our room. We had to call down to have our room serviced.

welcome snack

Final thoughts and message to the manager of the Al Messila: This review is based on my experience alone. Everything is true. I travel a lot and write many reviews. Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

  1. Provide a menu for the breakfast buffet so that people can make choices
  2. Have a vegan menu available. The world is changing; more and more people are going green
  3. Prepare for busier seasons with more experienced staff and write down reservations
  4. Don’t bring people cold food- ever, unless it is supposed to be cold and make sure that everyone at the table gets their food
  5. Keep customers informed. A customer should not have to call downstairs to find out why their room was not serviced
  6. Ensure that room service collects in-room dining dishes or at least checks with the guest within an hour
  7. Flip mattresses
  8. Remove the nectarine off the balcony of room 3012 and get rid of the carpet stains
  9. Move up the check-in time. Half the day is gone at 4pm and with a noon check-out time that isn’t even a 24 hour stay.

Al Messila receives 3 stars from me- Beautiful but below basic in food and service.

***Update: After contacting the hotel manager, Mr. Mallah, he arranged for me to return to try out Al Mesilla restaurant again. There were some major changes made and the brunch is very good. They had a whole section dedicated to just vegans. And it made me wonder, if that will always be there or was that just for me. The service was much, much better. The drinks were good too and so was the food. After this new visit and changes, I may be inclined to stay there again. I appreciate that the manager invited me back to have a better experience. I kind of wish he had covered a night’s stay along with the restaurant visit.

A Review of Sultani Indian Cuisine

Qatar is filled with many undiscovered gems.

On 11/11, my husband and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary. I can’t believe it has been 9 years. We didn’t do anything big this year, due to Corona and money is tight but he did take me to a nice brunch. He is also in Culinary Arts school and one of his assignments was to take a field trip to a restaurant that allowed him to experience a different culture’s cuisine. We saw a deal on Qgrabs (sort of like a Middle Eastern Groupon) to this Indian restaurant and that is how we found Sultani Indian Cuisine.

Sultani is located within the Swiss Belinn Hotel in Al Sadd. Funny Fact: We were the only ones there. Although this is nothing new for Qatar, the manager said the night time is busier. The deal was for a Diwali tabletop buffet. Diwali, or Dipawali, is India‘s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians. (https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/diwali/)

My husband called ahead to notify them that we are vegan and would not be able to partake in all of the dishes. He also spoke to the manager, Madir (don’t quote me on that name), who was present the entire time, about our dietary restrictions. The manager was very accommodating and kind. The dishes were brought to our table as they were made, which meant that everything was hot, #winning.

Here is a list of all the foods we enjoyed, which was basically everything: Aloo Tikka, Channa Chaat, Kachumber Salad, Namak Para, Pani Puri, Onion Pakota, Vegetable Biryani, Pindi Chole, Garlic Naan and Fruit Platter. The Aloo Tikki was my favorite (that’s the featured image). My least favorite may have been the Biryani due to the vegetable cuts, too big. I have concluded that Indian food may be the most seasoned food I’ve ever eaten. We have been on a diet for 2 weeks and our stomachs could not hold all of the food. We were full half way through but made sure to taste everything. We had seconds of a few dishes too. Mr. Madir, was even nice enough to allow us to take our food home, #winning. This never happens at brunch. I give the food 4 stars.

The restaurant decor was colorful and clean. I really like that you can see the kitchen. The one to one service was amazing. I give the service 5 stars.

For the amount of food we received the price is a steal, 118 QAR for 2 people, approx $32. And there was way more available but because we don’t eat animal products, we didn’t get to experience everything. (Tandoori Chicken, Shish Kabob, etc… was also available) I give the price 5 stars.

In conclusion. We really enjoyed our little private lunch. It wasn’t until we were halfway through the food that I notified the manager that I was a blogger, so I cannot even say it was because of this that everything was so nice.

Qatar is filled with many undiscovered gems and Sultani is one. There is an array of International cuisine restaurants here. You just have to be willing to try something different.

A Feature Story in Undomesticated Mag

…simply put, I am not done here, not yet.

A few weeks ago, a young lady contacted me after stumbling across my blog. When this happens, the person sends you some questions about your experiences, you respond with your answers, they tweek the content and then put together a feature. Ms. Hawk did a great job of putting my thoughts together. I’ve pasted the interview below for your reading enjoyment. Interesting fact: the article came out on my anniversary 11/11. What a nice gift. If you fancy, subscribe to the magazine as well. There are some very interesting reads on it. Click here for the website.

International Careers: Kennesha Bell on Teaching in Qatar 

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Kennesha Bell lived her entire life in Philadelphia until at the age of 39, she packed up her family and moved to Doha, Qatar to teach first grade, satisfying a longtime yearning for travel and international experience. Four years later, she has no plans to leave. We talk about getting the assignment, adjusting to another culture, the challenge of being so far from family, and why she loves life in the Middle East.

You can read more about her experience at her blog American Teacher Overseas.

Undomesticated: What led you to teaching abroad? And why Doha?

Kennesha Bell: I applied to teach abroad because I needed to get out of Philadelphia. I felt like I was suffocating. It was sort of a calling, I guess you could say. I love to travel and I wanted to experience life somewhere else. 

Doha was not my first choice. In fact, the first time I applied to teach overseas I was turned down by Teachaway, the company I went through. I didn’t have enough experience at that time. Then two years later, I applied again, passed the interview with Teachaway but was denied by Abu Dhabi Education Council and never heard back from the school in Kuwait. I applied for a third time two years later, being the persistent person that I am, and received offers from Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. Qatar had the best benefits package for a family. 

One of the reasons I chose the Middle East was because of the mystique of this part of the world. I only knew what I heard about it through the media, which gives a very one-sided outlook. Also I had read that Qatar was, and still is, one of the safest places in the world, and it is smack in the middle, so what a great hub to travel to the rest of the world from. How could I resist moving to a place that is safe, pays great, is a travel hub, and a mystery to me?

Undomesticated: When people think of overseas English teachers, they usually think of someone recently out of college and single. You, however, were in your late thirties and married with children. How did that affect your decision and your transition to Doha?

Bell: It was not easy, but I was determined. Honestly, I thought it would be a good opportunity to give my children. They would have something I never did, travel experience and exposure to different cultures. I figured we could go through the growing pains together. The company I work for in Qatar was extremely helpful with the transition. My director even connected me to another mother who was in Qatar with her children. We talked via Skype before I moved. She put my mind at ease and she and I are still good friends. 

Undomesticated: What was the biggest surprise about your job? About living in Doha?

Bell: The biggest surprise about my job was the surplus of resources and help that was available to me. 

Also, the diversity of the staff was a surprise. When you come from a place where everyone looks like you, talks like you, and has had similar experiences to you, you get locked inside a bubble. Here I felt like it was the first time I stepped outside of that bubble and saw life for how it is supposed to be: Colorful and beautiful.

Undomesticated: What would surprise people back home in Philadelphia about your life now?

Bell: I feel 100% more safe in Qatar than Philadelphia. This surprises people because Qatar is in the Middle East. That stigma about the Middle East runs deep for people who live in the West bubble and have never traveled to this part of the world. I love it here and have no desire to return to my hometown outside of being with friends and family.

Undomesticated: How do people in Qatar react to you as a Black American woman?

Bell: Some people are surprised when I tell them where I am from. One person even said, “I thought only white people were from the United States.”

Americans are looked up to here and as an African-American, I have never felt discriminated against. The population here is so diverse. There are people from everywhere here. 

Women in general have preferential treatment in some ways here. There are lines just for women. Women are often allowed to go first. The commonality of separation of genders takes some getting used to though. 

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Undomesticated: What is the biggest reward of your job?

Bell: I feel appreciated as a teacher in this country. Most families respect you and look to you as an expert.

Of course, the money is great too. I’ve been blessed with being able to travel to many places, pay off debt, invest, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Undomesticated: What is the biggest challenge?

Bell: The biggest challenge for me was adjusting. Things are different here. Life is slower. I’m from a big city, where everything is rush, rush, rush. I’ve had to learn patience and humility. Things don’t happen on your timetable here; it happens when it happens.

Another big personal challenge was being without my husband for the first year because he was working and we had a house in the U.S. that someone needed to live in. And being without my kids for the following years. The issue with my kids is touchy and very emotional and I devoted an entire blog post to this.  My two sons are so different. My oldest son stayed with me the entire first year.  He does very well with change and is adaptable. We traveled and spent a lot of time together.  He returned to the U.S. when we went home for the summer and stayed there to finish his senior year in high school.  

My youngest son however, does not do well with change. I wanted us to immerse ourselves into the new culture, and I think it was too much for him. He did not want to stay, so almost three quarters of the way through the first year, he returned to the U.S. to live with his dad. Some may not agree with my decision but I truly believe that everyone deserves to be happy. Being here was not bringing him the joy I had hoped, so I let him go home.  

Some may ask why I choose to stay despite it all, and my answer is this:  Qatar is my home now.  I am happy here.  Life is more peaceful here. I have a well-paying job that has allowed me to pay off thousands of dollars worth of debt, save, travel to many places, and I’ll soon pay off my house back in the U.S. I wasn’t able to do these things while working and living in the U.S. Sure I miss my other home and my family most of all. Before the pandemic, I made it my business to travel there every year. But, simply put, I am not done here, not yet.  

Undomesticated: What advice would you give someone hoping to teach abroad?

Bell: Go for it but have patience. If it is your dream, do it; but don’t expect others to be excited about your dreams. 

Think of all the wonderful things that could happen, and live a life without regrets. 

Credit: https://www.undomesticatedmag.com/blog/teaching-abroad-qatar-kennesha-bell-


I got Tested for Corona

Do I have Corona? What if I do?

Last Tuesday was our first day with kids in the physical building but before kids were allowed back, every teacher was required to submit to a Covid-19 test. So last Saturday, I had mine done. I would be lying if I said it was painful but it was not comfortable at all and I would be okay with never getting that done again. Thankfully it was at the expense of my employer and scheduled by them. I also heard that teachers and students will be randomly tested throughout the school year, just like a random drug test.

So how was it exactly.

It was a drive-in nasal swab. A long q-tip like object was slid into my nose, all the way up to my brain (it seemed), a specimen was collected and then the q-tip was taken out. It seemed like it just kept going and going up and took forever to come back out. My nose burned some for about an hour afterwards but there was no blood or discharge afterwards. I did not want to take the test but I’m glad I did. All kinds of things went through my head while I waited for the results.

Do I have Corona? What if I do?

Did they just put a chip in my head?

Within 30 hours I had my negative results along with all the other teachers in the school. What a relief!

And for the first time in my teaching career, teachers are asked to stay home if they aren’t feeling well. And because I am asthmatic, if I’m not feeling up to it, I can work from home too.

Very few students showed up for school on week 1. Every two grades came in using the same entrance spread out throughout the school. No nannies, drivers, or parent are permitted to enter. They must drop their children off at the door where they are escorted in, and checked for mask and temperature. All teachers are required to wear a mask and have their Etheraz app checked upon arrival. Half of each class has school from 7-10, whether they are in person or online and the other half from 11-2. Tuesday’s are virtual for everyone. This is how things stand for now but a survey was sent to parents a few days ago asking them to vote on fully online or fully in person. So we shall see what happens. So far so good.

Each day the new daily number of people infected with Covid-19 averages around 220 and the total number of active cases has finally dropped below 3,000. This is nice especially since there was a total of over 100,000 positive cases in this country and 202 deaths. That number is high for this tiny country but Qatar has done well and way better than many other countries around the world.

We are in the final phase of phase 4 reopening of the country. Visitors are still not allowed but residents who left the country are allowed to return and join the general population after a covid test and set quarantine. The movie theaters have just reopened with limited capacity along with many other venues. Children are allowed in the malls again and I’ve heard it is crazy. I am not in a rush to join that chaos.

I am looking forward to the day that Qatar announces 0 new cases.

Did you have covid-test? What was your experience like?

The End to the Summer and the Start of a New School Year

Where do we draw the line between educating our children, and risking our lives?

Well it is that time of year again. I knew that no matter how much time I had off, it would still feel like not enough once this time came. It never does, even though this has been the longest summer break ever. It was never on my bucket list or my intention but I can now say I spent a summer in Qatar. Outside of my husband, I haven’t seen my family face to face in over a year. I haven’t traveled anywhere in over a year. And despite these things, I can’t feel anything but gratitude. The pandemic is still going on but so far my family has maintained their health and so have I. Sadly, many others around the world have not. I still have a job, while others have lost theirs and people who were offered jobs by my company and other international teaching companies, had those offers rescinded. Many people have had to endure pay and benefit cuts. Several people at my job have also been transferred to other schools or have had their positions changed. So far I am still at my school, with the same position and same pay and benefits. But I am not under any misconception that in a moments’ notice something could change. I feel truly blessed.

I find myself finding joy in the little things like finding a spray bottle at the local store and Lysol in the supermarket yesterday for the first time in over 6 months. And just in time to go back to work and around other people. The Fedex man is like my favorite visitor, even though he is just doing his job. I enjoy doing a full face of makeup just to take pictures and clean it off. I like waking up and talking to my plants that I have been taking care of since the Pandemic started. Traveling takes a lot of out of you, so this summer has definitely been restful and I have even found some joy in the weight I have gained. I actually have a little butt now, for real for real!

Things are opening back up here in Qatar and the other day I bought a gym membership for Darryl and I. I want to keep my butt but not my stomach. During this whole quarantine, Darryl enrolled in culinary arts school so he has been cooking up a storm. I have thoroughly enjoyed eating his assignments. Although this summer was spent totally different than what I had in mind, there is no one else I’d rather be quarantined with than my husband. He made it totally bearable.

I started tutoring again about 2 months ago and gained 2 new clients that will continue services once school starts. I will be hustling this year, working to pay off my mortgage and build up my investment. I did an interview with Expat Arrivals a few weeks ago; you can read it here. In the interview, I discuss life here ups and downs. My friends Britney and Quahn have been hustling too. They started their youtube channel. I’ve had time to watch all of their posts about their travels abroad. I even made the cut on their post about Capetown. You can watch it here; be sure to like and subscribe to their channel here.

This school year will be interesting with a shortage of staff and in the midst of a pandemic. I’ll admit, I’m nervous. Kids spread germs like nobody’s business. I’d rather we continued virtual learning but I’m afraid these kids will be so far behind, they’d have to spend years playing catch up and that is so unfair to them. But is it worth lives? I know we have to move on and learn to live with Corona for now, but at what and whose expense? Where do we draw the line between educating our children, and risking our lives?

How to have an Awesome Spa day at home

If you get a snore out of your mate, you’ve succeeded.

With being quarantined and all, one of the things I miss is going to the spa. Once a month I would go for a massage and roughly every two months, I would go for the full treatment of a facial, body scrub and massage, so I decided to plan a Spa day at home. The first idea was for Darryl and I to have it on the same day but then who would pamper who and who would relax.

Then, I decided to split our days. He would have his spa day first so that I could set the example of how it should look. He is really good at following directions and taking it to the next level.

Preparation:

There are a few things you may need to purchase but most things you probably have at home. Here’s what you’ll need: waffle robes, cozy pajamas for afterwards, comfy slippers, several towels, infused socks, pumice stone, candles, essential oils (ex: lemongrass, lavender, eucalyptus), downloaded zen playlist, lemons, fresh mint leaves, water, snacks (ex: stuffed dates, apricots, chocolate covered strawberries), tea (they always offer ginger tea at my spa and I love it), routine facial products (cleanser/scrub, toner, cream, serums, moisturizer), cucumbers, massage oil, massage stone, bath bomb, bubbles, and rose petals. Don’t forget a body brush.

I found some exfoliating foot socks which I had never tried before but they work really well. I also purchased a Neutrogena face mask from the grocery store. They were inexpensive and smelled wonderful. I found a Zen playlist on Spotify and used that instead of youtube because youtube has gotten ridiculous with the amount of ads and commercials they play. Commercials would have killed the mood. We used the mint leaves and lemons for infused water. I recommend the bath bombs from Lush. The grocery store sold me two roses and chopped off the stems for me to use the petals. When Darryl went to the store for my spa day, they had rose petals in a bag already and were cheaper than buying the actual roses. So ask the store if they have a bag of rose petals you can purchase. I made my own lip scrub from coconut oil, sugar and honey, my own body scrub using coconut oil, ground coffee, sugar and cinnamon and my own foot scrub using epson salt, coconut oil and peppermint oil.

Set up:

Clean a room and set the mood. We used our guest bedroom and bathroom and put everything personal away. Ambiance is not complete without the right lighting and candles do the trick. Prepare all the material ahead of time so that everything runs smoothly. Researching how to massage your mate is crucial. This is where Youtube and Pinterest help. Light the candles all around the rooms and place the rose petals everywhere including in the bath tub. Draw a warm bath. Use an oil burner for aromatherapy. Lemongrass will have the room smelling like a real spa. Make your treats ahead of time including the snacks, infused water, and tea. Set up all the products that you will be using. Boil some water in a large pot for a face steam. After the water is boiling, turn it off and add a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus and lavender. Heat up your massage oil and stone. Have a rolled up towel to place under your guest head or a travel pillow will also work. Have a chair for you to sit on or a pillow to kneel on depending on the height of the bed. Dress in soft, sexy material so that it feels good brushing up against your mate and you’re home so why not dress sexy. Set a time for your guest, adjust the room temperature. Turn on the music and when ready invite your guest in to the oasis.

The Experience:

As mentioned before, it is best to have the spa days on a different day so that each person has a day to actually relax and be pampered by the other. Darryl out-did me with the ambiance as he created a creature out of towels.

Begin with a dry brush to brush away dead skin and get the blood flowing. Have your mate lay on the bed and start dry brushing them from the feet up towards the heart, when you get to the neck and shoulders brush down towards the heart. Have him/her drink a glass of room temperature water.

After they’ve been thoroughly brushed, take them into the bathroom and sit them down. Cleanse and exfoliate their face and lips. Use a soft bristle tooth brush to scrub the lips. Then have them lean over the hot pot of water and oil with a towel draped over their head for a 5-10 minute face steam. Don’t have the candles too close to the steam pot, or you might burn the towel. (learn from my mistake)

Following the steam bath, have them get into the bath tub. Apply the face mask and cucumber and allow them time to relax and unwind. Check on them after 10 minutes and offer some water. Tell them to remove the cucumbers, mask and wash themselves and to inform you when they are ready for their scrub.

Now it is time for you to use your diy body scrub and scrub that body from head to toe, using your hands, a loofah or scrub gloves. Use the foot scrub and a pumice stone to scrub the feet. Have them rinse off with the shower head and wrap their body in a towel. Air drying is best.

Bring them back into the bedroom, offer water and snacks. Then have them lay down on their stomach on the bed. If they appear a little cold cover them with a weighted towel or blanket. Put the exfoliating socks on your mate if you have them. Then gently touch all over their body to get them ready. Begin the massage from the shoulders down, with warm oil, kneading over every body muscle. When you’re done, have them turn over and place a mask over their eyes or a warm cloth and massage all over on this side. Remove the socks and massage the feet too. End with a scalp and moisturizing face massage. Don’t forget the hands. A hand massage feels so, so good. When they are ready, they may dress themselves in the pj’s and/or robe and enjoy a hot glass of ginger tea. They should sleep really good tonight.

If you get a snore out of your mate, you’ve succeeded. It will be a day you both will cherish and you might even add SPA DAY at HOME into a yearly or even monthly routine.

4th Year in the Bag- Teaching in Qatar

Today marks the last official day of work, bringing to a close my 4th year teaching in Qatar. Each year I usually write a recap of how the school year went but it just seems weird this year. For the last 2 months, I haven’t even been in the physical school building. I didn’t even get to close out and pack up my room. This year was bitter sweet. I had an amazing working experience, but this year was also full of WTF events, ending with the obvious one that I won’t mention.

This was my first year, since being here, holding a position outside of the classroom. I loved it. It was stress-less, manageable and fun. I was able to focus on small groups and see growth. I was able to attend and conduct several Professional Development workshops. I obtained my Google I Instructor certificate and re-enrolled in school. I smashed my goals both personal and professional.

However, I didn’t travel once since the school year started, instead I focused on achieving some monetary goals. I waited to travel ’til April but that got shot down. My trips to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malta, Ireland and numerous ones in the U.S.A all had to be cancelled. I am still waiting for several refunds and I have accepted that I probably will not get them anytime soon. I lost money too. I won’t be traveling home this summer which has me feeling very sad. I can go home but there is no guarantee that I’ll be able to make it back in time for the next school year to begin, as many borders are closed including Qatar’s for incoming persons. I also don’t want to risk close confines with strangers on a plane right now. I miss my kids and my family but I’m not alone as many people are suffering the same fate or worse. I still have a job and I have my health, so far, and I am safe. My family is healthy and I am grateful. Although if my husband was not here, I would be losing my mind.

I can’t believe it has been 4 years and I’m still here. I have no regrets about coming here. Time surely flies though. I have no idea what next year holds but I’ll be here for the adventure. We will probably start the year virtually and I may even be asked to return to the classroom temporarily, depending on the ability for new teachers to commute to Qatar. I hope not but the possibility is there. Either way, year 4 is in the bag.

Who knows what tomorrow holds? I could have never predicted that I’d be living through a pandemic in a foreign country. I never predicted I’d be here this long either. We have to plan for the future, but enjoy the day. So buy the shoes, eat the cake, take that flight because tomorrow is not promised.

Stay safe and healthy. I love you all!

30 days in Quarantine

*Disclaimer- this post is long but what else do you have to do

The beginning of quarantine started on Tuesday, March 10. It was the first day that students were told to stay home but we teachers still had to go to the school for work to prepare for what would come next, distance learning. It was also on this day that we were highly encouraged not to travel for spring break (due to the risk of illness and getting stuck outside of the country) and to apply for a Hamad card (a social security initiative for heavily subsidized healthcare in government-run medical institutions including pharmacies, basically welfare) because apparently our regular medical does not cover illnesses associated with pandemics. On Wednesday, I spent the day obtaining my Hamad card. Usually getting things like this done in Qatar takes time and patience. In my experience depending on where you go to get your Hamad card, requirements will be a tad bit different. However here is the list of things you will need: a passport picture blue background, 100 QAR on a credit card, copies of RP, proof of address (this will vary)- utility bill, or attested copy of lease with Kahrama letter (you can get this from your leasing office). You must go to the Primary Health Care Center nearest to where you live. You are given your card on the spot. If you need to renew your card this can be done online. — information retrieved from https://www.qatarday.com/blog/health/why-should-you-get-a-health-card-in-qatar/29120.

Thursday was our last day in the physical school. With the daily constant rise in cases of people infected with Covid-19, the quarantine rules have gotten pretty strict. Everything is closed now with the exception of the supermarkets, pharmacies and take out and we are encouraged to stay in doors. Social distancing is enforced here with threats of prosecution. I’m thinking we will be quarantined for at least 30 days.

Day 1- Spring break has just officially ended and we are still in quarantine. And although, technically it is not day one, it is the first official day of distance working. I want to keep busy or at least productive. Last week was spring break so I wasn’t as focused on being productive. But now since I have been blessed with all this extra free time, I don’t want to look back when this is over and feel like I wasted it and gained 10 pounds in the process.

Today Darryl and I started a 30 day workout consisting of daily push ups, squats, sit ups and lunges that increase in quantity per day. In addition we rotate abs, tabata, upper body, legs and yoga workouts daily. Today was abs. I read 20+ pages of my Abundance Now- by Lisa Nichols book. The plan is to finish the book by Tuesday, so I can start my new book on How to Publish a Children’s book. I worked on setting up my budget app- My Wallet and we took a virtual tour to the Grand Canyon and Hawaii’s national Volcano park. I’ve discovered that virtual tours can be useful when planning trips. You can document exact points of interest like the best locations for panoramic views and the best hiking trails for the scenery you’re most interested in seeing. Darryl cooked an asian spread consisting of sushi, udon noodles and fried rice with vegetables. Next is…

Day 2- I didn’t sleep very well last night. I think the extent that I have been following this Coronavirus is beginning to give me anxiety. The constant obsessing over it has began to weigh on me. For the past 2 days, I have been feeling some discomfort in my throat, like my uvula is swollen and is sitting too far in my throat. I’ve read that one of the symptoms of the virus is throat discomfort and soreness. However, I don’t have a cough or fever and I haven’t been around anyone who has traveled or who is sick. Last Monday, a group of us (11), had a small social gathering at a friends house but none of us had recently traveled. Outside of that, we saw our 2 close friends twice and they are fine. I’ve only been out of the house for an hour walk with Jenn and I wore a face mask the entire time and went with Darryl to the supermarket once with a face mask on. I made sure to avoid touching my face and wash and sanitize my hands. Other than this, I have been in the house and away from people. I hope it’s nothing, but I think I’m freaking myself out. In the meantime, I’ve heard drinking hot liquids helps and I’ve been taking Vitamin C, Echinacea and Golden Seal daily. I wonder if anyone else is experiencing these anxieties.

After spending some time on the phone speaking with my sisters about my feelings, I’m feeling better. Some people may be ashamed for how they feel or embarrassed but let me tell you, expressing your feelings to someone who cares about you and won’t judge does wonders. And I’m pretty sure others are feeling the same.

After picking myself back up, I was able to take a good nap. At 12, it was exercise time again. Today consisted of my regular workout and Tabata. I cooked Bok Choy for the first time and made some black beans in an adobe sauce. I made my first foot scrub today consisting of epson salt, coconut oil, Vit E and peppermint oil. The rest of the day included reading, more de-cluttering, making phone calls and getting clarity on my insurance policies as well as mortgage and student loan interest rates. Keeping busy.

Day 3-Last night I took 2 tylenol Pm and slept like a baby. I finished my book and finished de-cluttering. I made my first lip scrub, did my regular workout and upper body strength training.

Days 4 was spent much like the others, workouts, future trip planning and creating budget plans.

Day 5 started with a work related conference call and additional planning of lessons because distance learning will continue longer than originally anticipated. Of course we worked out and then I tackled my inbox, thousands of emails reduced to less than 200 in all 3 of my accounts. It took me over 2 hours to clean my emails. They need to invent a better way to clean up mailboxes or I just need to get better with clutter.

This was how many messages I had in just 1 of my email accounts

I began my new book “The Business of Writing for Children” to prepare for my next venture of getting a children’s book written and published. Darryl and I took a virtual trip to the catacombs and the Louvre in Paris since Zamir and I didn’t get to go into either site when we visited Paris 3 years ago.

Day 6- organizing pictures and working out.

Day 7- Today was scary, I had to go to the clinic. I was experiencing pressure in my neck area and stinging pain in my chest. I got an EKG which was in the normal range. No temperature, no swelling or redness of the throat, nothing in the lungs, diagnosis: early onset viral infection possibly connected to allergies. I received some meds and was told to return in 3 weeks for a repeat EKG and follow up. Oh boy, what’s happening to me.

Day 8- I felt a little better today, but stayed in bed anyway. I’m 2 days behind on my exercise and I’m not happy about that. I ordered some herbs from Swanson and toiletries from Amazon since it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting back to the U.S. anytime soon to refill. I completed some distance learning assignments for my students that receive learning support from me and spent the rest of the day reading, watching t.v., playing some brain trainer games, and relaxing. I really wish this Pandemic would go away. The U.S. is getting hit hard right now and in my opinion the government is not doing enough to protect its people. Money is their first priority and that’s a shame. I’m worried about my family back home. I’m worried about my own health. I feel stressed.

I took a nice, long, hot bath that melted my stress away and helped me have a peaceful night of rest.

Day 9- started with a business conference call about virtual admission testing for next school year and how to set these up. Not wanting to fall further behind on my 30 day work out plan, I jumped back in today. I adjusted my finances around and made up a budget plan for a future trip to Jordan. I’ve decided to stay in my apartment complex next year, so for the first time in 4 years, I won’t be moving to a different complex. However I will be downsizing to a smaller apartment. Darryl and I played our new Guitar Hero game that we ordered. I compared term, universal and whole life insurance policies and made a decision about which would be best for me. The day concluded with creating a draft Will.

Day 10- was a lazy day, spent mostly in front of Amazon Prime but also included working out and reading.

Day 11- I had to prepare more work today for another week of distance learning as well as attend another conference call about virtual admissions testing. I finished my book on The Business of Writing Children’s books and am ready to start my first manuscript. My friends and I played a game of Virtual Trivia tonight. It was fun to kick back, drink and enjoy other peoples company. Shout out to my girl Alyssa for putting it together.

Day 12- Today was the first day I have been out in weeks with the exception of the doctor’s visit. I just felt the need to leave these four corners if only for a little while. Darryl and I took a 3 mile walk around the outskirts of our apartments. It was warm out and welcoming.

Days 13-15- I spend some time talking to my mom and sister over the phone. My sister has lost her job amid this pandemic and the world is a very scary place right now. A few facebook friends of mine back in America have the virus and are recovering. We always crave more time to do whatever and then we get it, it’s difficult to do whatever because the time is spent worrying. For some reason, I can’t find it in me to begin my manuscript. I haven’t worked out in a few days but I’m resting though and resting is good right?

Day 16- Darryl woke up with a fever today. I’m worried. We haven’t traveled or been around anyone who has the virus but he has been to the grocery stores. Is it possible he has caught it somehow, no, I can’t think this way. He doesn’t have any other symptoms. He spoke to a doctor and they prescribed him a decongestant, the same one I just finished, Cirrus. Prayerfully, it’s just sinuses and not corona. I think our bodies are reacting toward stress. This is why I have limited myself to the amount of reading and accessing info on the virus. It was beginning to take its toll on my health and I think it is the same with him now.

I have a few virtual meetings to for work and I am grateful to still have my job .

Day 17&18- Keeping busy helps me stay positive. Darryl is beginning to feel better. We started the Star Wars trilogy in chronological order. He loves Star Wars. I think it is okay but watching it in order is helping me to better understand the story. We are also trying to learn some line dances, starting with Old Town Road. We got my sister in on it as well.

Youtube is like my new best friend. I’ve been researching some face care routines but honestly, my facial skin is one of my pride and joys. I very rarely have break outs unless my body is fighting a virus or something and my skin is always clear and smooth. I may add in a treatment once a week and sunscreen into my daily regiment. But that is about it. I’ve also looked into calligraphy and how to make home-made candles.

We started working out again and yesterday I even attended a religious meeting online. I went to the supermarket in Darryl’s place because I really don’t want him outside right now. I haven’t shopped alone in a long time. Actually being outside gave me a sense of normalcy again even it if was anything but normal with getting my temperature taken before entering the store, wearing gloves and mask and standing outside to keep social distance. I picked up a delivery from Aramex including my life size Jenga. The cost of delivery was 3 times the price of the game, which was already expensive, and it is heavy but if I have to be home, minds well have some fun.

I applied to refinance my house back home today; hopefully I will hear good news within a few days. I know I will be approved because my credit is stellar right now. I really just want to lower my interest rate before I start paying it off. I’ve also found some podcast to start listening to. One that I find particularly interesting is called, Stuff They Don’t Want you to Know. I listen to it on Spotify. I started brushing up on my Arabic too using the Duolingo app. I should have never stopped my Arabic classes. I suck now.

Day 19-26- I told you this post was long but keep reading.

I’ve actually been busy with work lately. I completed some admission testing for next school year and that has been taking up much of my mornings, followed by working out. Other than that, I’ve just been relaxing and enjoying this time at home. I have good days and blah days but I’m learning to simply appreciate this time. I love hearing the birds sing in the morning, which I didn’t pay much attention to before. I love not being on a schedule or routine. Some days are productive and some aren’t and I don’t feel bad about those unproductive days either. I don’t have to be productive right now, I just need to survive and appreciate each day I have here on this Earth.

Day 28 I think. It has almost been 30 days and my days and nights are starting to run into each other. I’m enjoying the fact that outside of the occasional virtual meeting, posting of assignments and testing, my days are pretty much unscheduled and a free for all. I pretty much do as I feel. I try to do some form of exercise every day if I feel up to it but if I don’t feel like getting out of bed, I don’t. Yesterday, Darryl and I did our 30 day workout routine, a yoga session and our line dancing. I don’t have a set in stone routine and I’m fine with that; this may be the first time in my adult life that I don’t.

Ramada is a week away and we have just been informed that we won’t be packing up our rooms for the first time in my teaching career. This is unheard of for teachers. There are only 5 weeks left in this school year. This has been thee shortest and whackiest school year ever.

One of the big things I have learned from this quarantine is that money should be spent on making your house as homely and comfortable as possible. I wish I had my own outdoor space right now and a private pool would be nice but I am thankful for the complex that I am in since I can take a nice long walk without treading thru sand and dirt. I am blessed to live with a compatible partner who doesn’t get on my nerves and who I love and who loves me dearly.

As of today, I won’t be taking any trips anytime soon. So for now, I will continue to enjoy this new way of living, filled with rest, relaxation, practice and make-up tutorials on youtube and IG, learning Arabic on Duolingo, keeping my brain fresh with Peak Brain Games, online classes, t.v. watching, working out, self care, etc… The funny thing is, if quarantine ends within the next month, I will still have 3 months of summer vacation left.

Day 29- Today I completed an online photography class through Nikon. It was very informative. A 45 minute class took me almost 3 hours between experimenting with my camera and taking notes. Here I am practicing with the exposure, taking pictures with various IOS, shutter and aperture.

Today was a friends birthday so I set up a Zoom call with a few friends so we could sing happy birthday to him and enjoy a shot together. It was my first time attending a virtual birthday party and there was zero clean up. My type of party.

Tomorrow marks the 30th day of quarantine and the Covid-19 cases in Qatar continue to rise. I hope the country has reached its peak and an end is in sight.

Day 30 Today is day 30 of quarantine and social distancing and the last day for this long ass post. I think today is day 30, maybe more. All sense of date and time has disappeared for me. Either way, I am quite proud of how I have handled these last 30 days and of course there is room for improvement.

Darryl and I completed 18 days of our 30 day challenge which equals 60% and accomplished an accumulated number of 162 push ups, 1285 squats, 705 sit ups, and 422 lunges per leg.

However this percent does not include the days I walked 3+ miles or other work out routines we did. We will complete the 30 day workout plan and then switch to a new one on May 1, since I see no end to this quarantine within the next 30 days. The plan is to increase our percentage to 80% for May.

Approximately 90% of our days were spent doing something productive. I learned a new line dance, new makeup techniques, and skin care routines, learned how to use my Canan Rebel, finished two books, worked, decluttered, budgeted, took some virtual trips, organized photos and emails, wrote a will, practiced Arabic, spent more than I wanted to and even cooked a little. But I didn’t write my book. So now this goal gets pushed to May.

More importantly than all of these things is, I spoke to my loved ones back home more than I have in my last 3.5 years abroad with weekly scheduled regular and facetime calls. My husband and I spent a lot of quality time together. I obeyed the social distancing laws and stayed healthy and safe. Outside of a few tough days, I tried my best to remain positive emotionally and mentally.

Here’s to Survival, Love and God!

How have you all been holding up and occupying your time?

Life in Qatar during the Pandemic- Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

We are basically advised to stay in our accommodations and only go out for food, medicine and emergencies.

By now, everyone all over the world is being affected in some way or another by the Coronavirus. As many countries surrounding Qatar began to report cases of patients with Coronavirus, Qatar was immune for a while. However, on February 26 this happened, “HH the Amir has issued directives to evacuate the citizens of the State of Qatar and citizens of the sisterly State of Kuwait, who are currently in Iran, due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).” (Qatar News agency) And on February 29, The Ministry of Public Health confirmed Qatar’s first case of the novel coronavirus. The patient was a Qatari male who was one of the evacuees from Iran (Qatar Living). Since then the number has risen to over 450 patients infected with Covid-19, with the highest jump occurring just 11 days later of 238 cases. As of today, there have been 0 deaths and 4 people recovered.

At first, like many other countries, the Ministry thought the risk of spreading the virus was low and putting small precautionary measures in place would keep it that way. However, as the virus continued to spread, it was obvious that more would need to be done to keep the public safe and infections down.

Travelers were screened at airports. Some residents whom returned from countries with high cases of the virus were put in quarantined for 14 days. A hotel and some residential apartments were used solely for quarantines. Those residing there received free wifi and three meals a day from what I was told from a friend who returned from Italy and was quarantined upon arrival and without choice. She was released after the 14 days. The Gov’t paid for everything.

I was really looking forward to Spring break which was this week, March 13-21. We would have been visiting friends in Saudi Arabia (KSA), which I was really excited about since KSA had just recently opened their doors to tourist visas. Our visas were purchased and approved. Our flights were booked. We were also going to stay a few days in Kuwait. We already had our visas for there too as well as hotel stay and flight. Needless to say, we did lose out on some money, around 500 usd. We were able to recoup some of our flight money and 1 night of our hotel stay in Kuwait. Our visas for KSA are good for 1 year but the ones from Kuwait were only good for the time of our stay. If this has taught me anything, it is to pay that extra money for free cancellation on flights and rooms because the unexpected can happen. I usually don’t purchase insurance but for some reason I did on the hotel in Kuwait, probably because it was only 8 usd, so now I am waiting to see if the Insurance will reimburse the money from the other night stay for the hotel. I’m kinda bummed about the whole thing because I was excited about this trip and I haven’t been on any vacations this school year but I’d rather be safe than sick. There are many bright sides to this whole thing but one in particular is that, the original plan was to go to China to see the Great Wall for Spring break but I decided against that to save some money. Thank God for that because I would have lost a whole hell of a lot more money. In the meantime, I booked our flights to Malta for May. It was going to be our first stop on the way home this summer, followed by a few days in Ireland. Well my flight to Malta has also been cancelled but at least they refunded all of my money for that. However, my flight from Malta to Ireland is still booked and sitting in limbo.

Anway, with the rising numbers of infected persons, the Ministry announced the closing of all schools for students as of March 10. For the remainder of that week, students stayed home and teachers went to work planning for virtual learning. Everyone was advised not to travel but of course some did. And earlier this week, Qatar cancelled all incoming flights for 14 days for anyone except for Qatari citizens. Some people were left stranded. This week major precautions have been put in place: Mosques, malls, cafes, barbershops, spas, public transportation, sit down restaurants, public parks, events etc.. closed, distance learning for students and social distancing. We are basically advised to stay in our accommodations and only go out for food, medicine and emergencies. The Gov’t has offered some incentives for small business owners like, no rent payments, freeze on bank loan payments but nothing for the common residents.

I am a little worried but not panicked. This kinda summarizes how I feel each day.

I’ll admit, I am enjoying my time. Being stuck in the house doesn’t bother me especially since I’m stuck with my best friend. It’s like being snowed-in back in Philly. Darryl and I are spending our days doing various things. This is how we spent yesterday outside of Netflix and chill.

I watched birds building a nest outside my bathroom window.
Playing Corn hole
I cooked dinner (which I rarely do, barbeque tofu, farro casserole and left over cabbage) and we ate by candlelight with our Coronas and watched a movie.

I’ve made a list of things I would like to do during this lockdown and am taking my time accomplishing them. Some of those things include: finish my Abundance Now book by Lisa Nichols, begin my new book on How to write a Children’s book, write a draft of my children’s book, declutter the house, make a decision on where I will live next year (will I move again or stay put in my apartment for the first time in 4 years), cook, start using my budget app, virtual museum tours, research investing, book my next detox, etc…

I think Qatar is doing their best to contain this virus but the daily rising numbers show just how resilient and contagious this virus is. I’m actually glad I am not in the U.S. right now. In my opinion, I don’t think enough is being done there to combat Covid-19, however, I am outside the bubble looking in. I pray for my family over there and hope that it doesn’t get as bad as it is in Italy there.

The first known case of Covid-19 is traced back to November 17 from Hubei province in China- https://www.livescience.com/first-case-coronavirus-found.html. It’s been approx 4 months and China is just starting to get a handle on it after over 80,000 people were infected and 8000+ have died. The end of June will be the 4 month mark in Qatar since the first case was reported and since January 19 was when the first case was reported in the USA, the end of May will marks that country’s 4 month mark. Qatar has already basically locked down the country but the U.S. has not. I am nervous that I won’t be able to make it home this summer to see my family. I’ve been face-timing my boys back home and really would like to see them face to face. But I don’t believe that this virus has peaked in the U.S. yet. I fear the end is far away.

So far since moving to Qatar, there has been a blockade and a pandemic. I would have never expected these things to occur while living so far away from my family. But life as an expat comes with a lot of unexpected situations. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

Please Wash Your Hands

Things to do during quarantine:

Virtual Tour of the Great Wall of China

Virtual Tours of Museums, Zoos, Botanical Gardens, Aquariums, and Famous Landmarks and more

Tour National Parks

Take a Virtual Field Trip

Play Games- I just ordered one of my favorite games, we used to play with the boys when they were little (Guitar Hero)

Exercise- Many gyms are doing virtual classes and there are many on youtube

100 things to do

FYI: This website reports case of Coronavirus around the world

*I would love to hear how others are coping and what your country is doing in light of this Pandemic. Leave a comment!

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